They say ‘time heals all wounds’. But does it? Or are there other things involved in the healing, too?

If it is time that salves and soothes, how much time does it take to heal?

(And how on earth might a thing like time-limited brief therapy work?)

Perhaps it’s worth just investigating time for a moment. What’s your relationship with time like? Does it evaporate on you, too quickly gone? Are you in a kind of ‘pursuer-distancer’ relationship with it, where you’re always chasing it down, and it usually stays tantalisingly out of reach? Or does it pool at your feet and maroon you in a rising tide of excess? Is there so much of it that it’s hard to find ways to meaningfully fill it?

Therapy itself is intimately twined with time. Measured in regular rhythms of sessions and the weeks between. Yet even here, time can play tricks. For in some sessions, the clock fairly races. In others, the ticking slows and seems to expand somehow, inviting a whole other dimension into the room.

So how can we use this nebulous, changeable stuff therapeutically – both in therapy and in life? How can we harness time for our healing?

Solution-focused brief therapy offers one perspective. By its very nature and brevity, it acknowledges the time-limited nature of all our lives – an end to brief therapy is woven into its beginnings much as our death is implicitly present at our birth.

So brief therapy doesn’t muck about. In its more extreme forms, it doesn’t even want to know about the problem too much. Instead, it focuses on the way out of the problem, and it asks ‘how’ you will recognize that way out. And ‘how’ you possibly have some part of the solution – part of the healing – in your life already. In fact, it often poses a lot of ‘how’ questions.

So it might ask things like:

How will you know when this wound is healed? What will the signs of that be?

How will you feel when that happens?

How will you behave? What sort of things will you be doing with your days then?

How will others see or know this about you? How will they notice your healing?

How have you helped heal other, earlier wounds you might have had? (And how did you know how to do that? Where did your knowledge about that come from? How can you access it again?)

They’re interesting questions.

And, in whatever timeframe it takes – brief or longer-term – perhaps these kind of queries can help us get a new angle on our healing. New insight. A kind of re-focusing on our present and future. And perhaps they can even help time’s quest to heal our wounds…

So how do you find these kinds of questions?

Photo: Gabrielle Gawne-Kelnar

Gabrielle Gawne-Kelnar (Grad Dip Counselling & Psychotherapy) is a Sydney psychotherapist in private practice at One Life Counselling & Psychotherapy. Gabrielle also co-facilitates telephone support groups for people who are living with cancer, for their carers, and for people who have been bereaved through a cancer experience. She is the editor of a journal on counselling and psychotherapy and she provides regular therapeutic updates on facebook and Twitter @OneLifeTherapy.